Idea #6 – community food swap

June 19, 2011, 18:00

Every community ought to have a place where food can be left for other people. The food might be food that one realises one isn’t going to use before it is past its best, or it might be food bought impulsively, say, and no use will be made of it in that household. Rather than recycling food that has been wasted, food ought to be eaten, and this would be a good way for food to be eaten by people who would like to eat it.

Idea #5 – Wedge

May 22, 2010, 20:11

Support local independent businesses by using the Wedge card, strengthen the community. And get discounts. Like a reward card, but not quite as we know it.

Idea #4 – paying people to recycle

May 21, 2010, 18:45

I don’t believe in the government overcompensating for the rest of the population when it comes to positive change. Whether the aim is to send less to landfill or to create a population that is not obese, I don’t see why money should ever seriously come into changing people’s habits.

With recycling, I think targets should be met by educating people about the facts of landfills rather than by bribing them to recycle more. Perhaps the issue of landfills filling up quickly is one considered important enough to use money to change people’s habits, but I think if something is considered important by people they will act on it.

As with any ideas of tackling obesity by paying people to lose weight, increasing the reuse and recycling of materials isn’t an idea dreamt up for the fun of it. It is in our own interests to do something about our landfill situation, so why do we have to even consider being paid for it?

It’s one thing to make recycling easier so that targets can be met, but handing out money is well beyond making it easier. We should take some responsibility for our lives (and environment).

(Incidentally, is anybody using the phrase “nanny state” in response to the suggestion of being paid to recycle more, or is it only used when there’s no suggestion of monetary incentives for a change in our behaviours?)

I am not an expert

May 21, 2010, 18:05

I am not an expert. I do have enthusiasm for certain topics, though, and that enthusiasm leads me to read stuff and, in turn, I am able to form ideas and opinions.

Idea #3 – recycling

May 13, 2010, 16:17

Maybe recycling isn’t as great as it first appears. For example, I’d not considered that white recycled paper was once paper that was not white and ready for reuse. How did it become white again? Was it bleached? What is the ecological impact of making the paper white again in terms of chemicals and energy used? How many more times can this recycled paper be recycled?

In the end, it seems, recycled materials will end up in landfill. It will just take longer to get there, as materials are recycled until they are no longer useful.

Ideas & Information

May 9, 2010, 19:53

The header now says “ideas and commentary, mostly about sustainability and politics” rather than the previous “engaging with sustainability”. I am no political correspondent, obviously, but I am developing an interest in politics, so the header now accurately reflects that. I changed the categories of some of my posts, also, for that reason.

I have no idea what is going on with Ideas & Information. There is a slight change in its direction with every thought I have, it seems—I thought a programme of thoughtful workshops and lectures would be great; I thought I’d concentrate on workshops; I briefly thought about disseminating a series of “introduction to…” leaflets ( introduction to energy, introduction to fairtrade, et cetera); I started to focus on organising a screening of Pig Business; I wanted to give away sunflowers for people to enjoy; I’d really like to work with educational institutions and small businesses who are interested in reducing their environmental impact; I’d like to start a waste project; and I recently thought that to organise an ordinary people’s version of TED Global would be fantastic.

I am supposed to be distributing leaflets and posters to get people interested in working with me, but I haven’t started with that yet. I would love to be able to do everything I have in mind. It just seems that things can take a long time to start progressing.

Can I be green and…?

May 9, 2010, 13:11

A quick thought: Leo Hickman has “an ethical guide to everyday dilemmas” where he addresses aspects of our lives with regard to “being green”. The last one I looked at was “can I wear glasses or contacts and be green?” Catching mice whilst remaining green and buying underwear but not reducing one’s green credentials have also been covered.

On one hand, he is providing answers to questions people might have about the environmental impact of small actions we might not give much thought to, and underneath these small things can sometimes lie huge implications. For example, the answer to “can I wear jewels and be green?” talks about the conditions workers endure.

On the other hand, environmental concern appears to have been reduced to apparently pointless and arbitrary questions. Perhaps there will be an article asking if it is possible to read a map and be green or write in a notebook and be green or use a skipping rope and be green. (A quick glance around my room provided those suggestions.) I don’t doubt that there can be ethical implications bigger than might be expected (maybe my leather skipping rope was made by people in a developing country, made using the skin of an endangered animal), but I think we have to remember what our main concerns are. Our main concern is creating a fairer world, isn’t it? I think it is. It’s a huge one, sure, but it can be broken down into more manageable areas like food, money, materials, welfare, and so on. As well as remembering the bigger picture, I think we ought to consider that some things just aren’t that important.

I read a short essay by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He said his family chooses fairly traded organic oranges because they believe this is a good choice (farmer gets a good price for their work and is also spared handling chemicals) despite the food miles. The peel can’t be put in the compost or given to their chickens, so it gets thrown away. He says he was once told citrus peel can be composted once they have been left in a bin of their own to decay a bit first, but he throws them away because he can’t be bothered to go to the hassle of that. The point is that the bigger things outweigh the smaller things.

Let’s focus on reducing our output of methane and carbon dioxide and whatever else is trapping heat, encouraging fair trade, redistributing wealth, adapting a cradle-to-cradle approach to design and things like that; “issues” like the environmental impact of wearing contact lenses are nothing compared to those things.

I know that small actions can add up to a lot when repeatedly done by loads of people, but I think small actions get too much focus. Shall we wait for small things to add up to a big change over time, or just make big changes straight away? Let’s not waste time with and get distracted by the environmental impact of every small thing.

I’d be more interested in a series of short articles addressing the environmental impact of big and small actions, along with their relative importance in the world.

(“Can I be green and surf the net?” is one of the “ethical dilemmas”. For somebody to start considering this, I think they must have looked at bigger ways to lower their impact on the planet, like the use of the car and how they go on holiday, and if they haven’t they can’t be that interested in lowering their carbon emissions.)

Turned away voters

May 9, 2010, 9:25

Polling stations open from 0700 until 2200, yet a lot of people were not allowed to cast their votes on Thursday because the time ran out. I’ve been hearing a lot of commentary about this since Friday: I’ve been listening to people on BBC radio, I heard two people talking about it on the bus, and I read an article in The Guardian. I also saw Shami Chakrabarti on BBC Breakfast this morning talking about the subject in terms of human rights, and saying that legal action is a possibility.

Something that people have been pointing out is that there are 15 hours in which to vote. It says the opening times of the polling stations on the polling card, and the polling cards were sent out well before the election. The woman on the bus was saying to her friend that even if a person works twleve hour shifts there is still time for them to vote; if somebody does work awkward hours, a postal vote could have been arranged. A man on BBC Oxford radio said nobody would turn up to a supermarket at 2145 if they knew it was closing at 2200 and expect to be able to finish their shopping and pay. He did say it’s slightly different, but I think it is pretty much the same thing—the closing time is the closing time, and an effort should be made to get there in good time if it really matters to you that much.

I went to the polling station at around 0900. There were no queues, and I didn’t expect there to be. The idea that there could be huge queues didn’t occur to me, and maybe that is true of other people.

A number of faults have been highlighted with the how the polling is handled. Should it be that the queue is cut off at 2200, and the people already in the queue are allowed to vote? Is it a possibility to move elections to a weekend or to make the day a national holiday, effectively allowing people more time to vote and avoiding a morning and late evening rush? Should the Electoral Commission, rather than the local authority, handle voting matters to ensure that no polling station can run out of ballots, that each station is sufficiently staffed and everybody running the station is aware of the rule concerning people voting after 2200 if they are in the queue or inside the building, or whatever the rule is?

I read an article and some comments on about possible ways to transform voting. About visiting polling stations, I wonder if things should just be kept to casting a vote. Don’t worry about giving me somewhere comfortable to sit and browse the internet; it’s not a lounge. Maybe just make sure everybody is absolutely clear about when the last vote can be cast, and make sure everybody is able to cast their vote on time.

There is a review being carried out by the Electoral Commission of what happened on Thursday. It’ll be interesting to know what they have to say about it all, particularly about people under 18 being sent a polling card. Once they review the problems and take measures to ensure they don’t happen again, surely that is all that’s needed (or is there any chance of having a re-run of the election to include the missed out votes?).

Vote for Policies survey

May 4, 2010, 19:52

I just did the Vote for Policies survey, based on six issues: education, welfare, immigration, health/NHS, environment and economy. The result, unsurprisingly, was that I mostly prefer Green’s policies (prefering Liberal Democrat’s policies on education).

This survey is meant to be helpful. It is certainly a fantastic idea. I wonder, though, if people will follow through with their results. Of course, it is not telling people who to vote for, but it does indicate which party a person shares beliefs with. Therefore, really, there isn’t any reason for me to not vote Green on Thursday. The only thing I can think of that would stop people following through with their results is tactical voting.

Of course, manifestos are made up of much more than the nine issues included in this survey and the few brief statements made on each one (the other three issues are crime, Europe and democracy), and not everybody would have done the survey with all nine issues, but the survey can be used to give somebody like me an idea of where each party stands on key issues.

I see that 103 people in Oxford East have done the survey so far. Both in Oxford East and overall, Green has a bigger percentage than anybody else. I wonder how all of this will translate.

An introduction to British politics

May 4, 2010, 18:42

My introduction, that is.

My introduction to British politics has really been the general election this year. Despite posting a link on this blog to the collaborative work of a photographer and the public about the election, despite having a conversation weeks ago with somebody about tactical voting, despite eating breakfast whilst watching BBC Breakfast talk about Motorway Man, it is in the last seven or eight days that I have found myself rapidly gaining interest in politics.

It is something that I have never understood; I still don’t understand it. Often, big or important things enter my consciousness and I give no thought to them until their importance is spoken of more frequently or with more urgency. One example of this is when the volcano in Iceland erupted. I remember hearing about it, but it wasn’t until the scale of the problem was revealed to be a lot of delays for a lot of people that I realised how big an event the eruption was. With the prime ministerial debates, I had heard that, if it happens, it’ll be the first time it has happened. I thought nothing more of it until the night of the first one when I heard somebody mention it and I decided to record it. That first one was 19 days ago, and I still haven’t watched it.

Six days later, I went to the Oxford East Ask The Climate Question and, as described in my previous post, it was pivotal for me because I started to have doubts about who I would vote for. I have been so unaware of politics that I can’t even remember my voting history, except that I voted in the last elections for Green all round. I assumed I would do the same in this election, but the Ask The Climate Question kicked off my interest in politics, I would say. I started thinking about reasons for keeping Labour in (to keep things as they are) and reasons for not voting Green (I doubt the motivations behind their solutions), and I resolved to check out the manifestos of the four main parties.

So, in the last 12 days, I have not looked at manifestos. What I did was join Twitter six days ago. I had been thinking about it for a few weeks; I really disliked the idea of “social networking”, yet I liked how effective it can be when used strategically. In the end, I thought it’d be good to try to get some traffic over here via Twitter, so I joined and I started playing the game. I followed some organisations of interest to me and found that there was a lot of talk about the elections. A lot of links to articles and websites about the elections appeared, I saved shortcuts to them on my desktop with the intention of going back later. I haven’t. I planned to review everything to be able to make an informed decision on Thursday morning. I probably won’t.

I have recorded, in addition to the first debate, three programmes about what is going on in the election race. I haven’t watched them. I will probably watch them after Thursday because I feel scared that it will make my decision more difficult. Yesterday, for some reason, I started downloading some political podcasts. Podcasts, television programmes, web content—all of this has come together, along with general news coverage, to really excite me about politics for the first time ever. Of course, I still don’t know anything about it, so…

My plan is to get through tonight and tomorrow, reading manifestos and thinking about who to vote for as much as I can, vote on Thursday morning, then get some books on how politics works. I find it all fascinating, including the responses that the media have to it all. I will listen to podcasts, read some of the Guardian editorial, watch those programmes and continue to follow responses to the election’s outcome.

Beyond the election, though, I want to become somebody who knows about what’s going on and how it all works, and knows what’s happening right now and the implications of what politicians say, as well as the impact on me.

Perhaps I also have to figure out what I care about, what I want politicians to care about. So far, the only thing I have responded to is David Cameron speaking with Andrew Marr on Sunday. He spoke of a plan to incrementally reduce the benefit of people who can work but refuse to. I shall not be voting for his party. How would he deal with recent graduates who want to take time to get a decent job rather than take the first job that comes along but, at the same time, could do with the benefit money to live on?

This general election has been my introduction to British politics. It’s exciting.